The pandemic has had a huge impact on how and why we shop. Many of these shifts in behaviour were highly predictable, such as the hike in sales of jogging bottoms, jigsaws, and puffer coats. Some, however, surprised even the most experienced retail experts. One of these trends we didn't see coming at the beginning of lockdown 1.0 was the rise in fine-jewellery sales.
Sales of fine jewellery saw a 150% year on year increase at Matchesfashion.com, and this has also been an expanding category at Net-a-Porter. Libby Page, senior market editor at Net-a-Porter, notes, "We now have 95 brands, and we started with five in 2012. We've seen success in timeless pieces, pieces that customers can buy now and wear forever. We're also seeing growth in the emerging fine-jewellery world. There is a younger customer looking for investment pieces that speak to them, so we are broadening our assortment of fresh and exciting talent."
I would argue that the fine-jewellery brand creating the biggest buzz in fashion circles is Mateo. This New York–based label counts Michelle Obama and Rihanna as fans (amongst many others) and creates beautiful, timeless pieces with pearls, diamonds, and crystals that feel really modern thanks to the clean lines and often sculptural shapes. A diamond ring or necklace is the definition of a once-in-a-lifetime purchase, so it needs to be a piece you know you will wear and cherish forever. "I tend to not follow trends, as my work is meant to withstand time," says founder Matthew Harris. "The same piece today should still be relevant 50 years from now, no matter how small the piece is. There are certain styles I will always have in my collections, such as a good hoop, our initial pieces, and pearls."
Yara Shahidi wears Mateo earrings.
As for his design process, he explains, "I always look to contemporary art for inspiration. I am obsessed with the works of artists such as Alexander Calder, Wassily Kandinsky, and Brancusi, amongst others." The most popular piece is a "secret initial" ring and necklace, which is a crystal with a diamond initial suspended in the frame. "To be honest, that ring was a mistake and a blessing," Harris tells Who What Wear. "I sketched the ring and sent it to our production team. Initially, the ring was supposed to use malachite. However, a mistake was made, and the ring came back with crystal quartz. You could then see our signature M through the stone, and I thought, 'Why not pavé the initial?' And that's truly how this collection came about, and now it's one of our most successful collections to date."
Harris grew up in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and moved to New York to study when he was 16 and then started to teach himself jewellery design. "My obsession with jewellery took me to the 47th Street jewellery district in New York, where I asked questions, sat on a bench, and learned how to make jewellery," Harris remembers. "It was not an easy road, as so many mistakes were made. Growing up with a mother who was a dressmaker, creativity and vision has always been in my blood."
Keep scrolling to see some seriously jaw-dropping jewellery, from malachite drop earrings to turquoise and pearl chokers.